10 Tips for first time Marathon Runners

Marathon season is upon us and by now you should be increasing your mileage. Or are you someone who is struggling to motivate yourself?

I think I can help you and here is why;

I’m so proud of my running achievements. This includes being one of the first women in the UK to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks and running over 150 marathons to date (including about 30 ultra marathons)

Despite this, I’ve never forgotten my first marathon which brought such an overwhelming sense of achievement and joy. My running history has helped me to discover what makes me tick, what motivates me and what stops me from quitting.

As a sports massage therapist, I work a lot with first-time marathoners. At times the massage becomes almost secondary to the advice and support I happily dish out to nervous wannabe marathoners. The question I am asked most is “how do I stay motivated in my training?”

So, how do you keep going when the going gets tough? Here are a few ideas picked up along the way which may help you when you need to dig deep.

1. Join a running group.

In Brighton and Hove there are various groups. Search around and find a group that will provide training at your level. It’s so helpful to run with others, and share tips and advice. Motivation is easier if you have someone to share your experience with and you’ll make new friends.

2. Decide what kind of runner you are and what you want to achieve.

Do you want to get a target time or do you just want to finish? What is your goal? This is going to make a huge difference to the way you train, so decide.

3. Running with more experienced runners pushed me to my limit and forced me to go faster and longer.

However, it’s an awful experience to always be at the back and it will knock your confidence. Running occasionally with someone who is slower or going through a rough patch helped me to understand how far I had come. Of course, if you are endlessly stuck with someone who is holding you back, then you’re not going to achieve your full potential.

4. Remember you have chosen to run a marathon because it’s hard!

Did you really think it was going to be easy to train for 26.2 miles? The good news is that if you’ve trained well, then the marathon itself will be easier than the training.

5. Accept you will have good days and bad days. It’s part of the process.

Some people, including myself, have bad days or even weeks; but that feeling of euphoria when you run well after a bad spell is better than any drug. It will happen. Believe it.

6. Bad runs are good for you and I should know.

Store each memory away somewhere safe because you need to draw from them the next time you have a bad run. I call it my ‘mental toughening up bag’. It’s full of bad experiences. When I’m having a bad time, I remind myself that I’ve been here before and survived. The more bad runs I’ve survived, the more I know I do not need to quit.

7. You never hear people say “I wish I hadn’t done that session.”

When you toss that coin to decide if you will or won’t run, make sure it lands on will. When you’ve managed to do that run, however reluctantly, there’s an extra feel good factor that you will be rewarded with, rather than regrets at missing another session.

8. Focus on that medal, focus on the crowds, the buzz, your friends and family cheering you on.

Imagine yourself crossing the finish line with a huge smile on your face. On the day, these things will give you a massive adrenaline boost. All the work you do now will be rewarded. Constantly remind yourself that you are training for a day you never want to forget rather than a day you wish to forget, or a day that could have been better had you trained better.

9. Understand the difference between overloading and over training.

Overloading is gradually making your body do more, either making it run faster or longer. You increase gradually so that your body can adapt to the new demands. That’s why marathon training never seems to get any easier. Over training on the other hand, is when you ask too much, too soon. Signs of over training might include symptoms such as constant fatigue, sleeplessness and a reduced immune system. Sadly over training all too often can cause injury just when your training is peaking. Good training programs now factor in easy weeks so that your body can adapt. (Being a woman in my 50’s, having total rest weeks helps me enormously as my body needs more repair time) If you think you may be over training, you may need to cut back. Seek advice if you are unsure.

10. Get regular sports massage.

You are pushing your poor body to the limit week in, week out. It should be looked after in every way you can. A good therapist will be able to identify problem areas which need to be worked on and show you the appropriate exercises that can help. Get those niggles seen to straight away or they may become injuries as your training peaks. Also massage feels great. You deserve it!

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